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Friday, 21 September 2012

'Sweet Nothing' analysis

Thought I'd give analysing the 'Sweet Nothing' music video a bash. If you haven't seen it yet, you can watch it by clicking on the video below:

We start off with two scenes that intersect each-other. One of a roughed up man in a chipper thinking deeply about something, the other of a performer in their dressing room, away to make their way onto the stage.

The Kuleshov effect is put into practice here. Because the video is constantly cutting from the man to the performer, the viewer assumes that the man that is deep in thought is thinking about something that happened between him and the performer.

We feel distant to the performer. We're introduced to a suit before we are ever introduced to the actual character. 

The director doesn't even show the audience the suit itself, deciding on showing us a reflection of it on a broken mirror instead, in order to establish how cheap/gritty the setting is and also to subtly suggest the idea of broken vanity and a damaged perception of self. Both the performer and the blonde girl are in front of this mirror, but neither look at it, which implies a hint of shame. We then get a close up on the suit (which has masculine connotations) before quickly cutting back to the man, effectively tying not only these two characters together, but also the man to the traits of masculinity. These include strength, bravery, violence, dominance and insensitivity, to name a few.

The performer is merely projecting the idea of masculinity by wearing a suit, whereas it is implied that the man fully embodies these masculine traits.

The series of cuts that follow yet again ties these two together, with it almost seeming as though they are mimicking each-other's movements. You've got almost identical movements with dramatic colour changes between these two scenes. A highly sexualised, seedy colour of red for the performer, and an unhealthy, synthetic blue for the man. The shot compositions are also vastly different, with the performer's face noticeably off camera leaving the audience to focus on the suit (and only the suit) to create a sense of emotional detachment from this character, whereas the camera is constantly closed in on the man's face, to show his emotion, or rather, lack of. 

The guy who works in the chipper then asks the man:
"My friend, where is that pretty girl you used to bring in here? How is she doing?"
 The man looks like he's just seen a ghost, and then...

We skip to the performer on stage. It's Florence, immediately suggesting that this is the girl who the guy in the chipper was referring to. This is the first time we get to see her face in the video, on stage. Not just a collection of shots of her on stage however, but a series of close-ups. You get the emotional distance of the performer off stage, juxtaposed by the great emotional intensity that she shares with the audience (both in the video and the viewers themselves) whilst on stage. This implies that like most artists, the performer is only comfortable with bearing who she really is on stage, and even then, she is defending herself by using a veil of strength, symbolised by the masculine connotations of the suit.

The performer comes out smiling, but quickly loses heart when she realises how uninterested the customers at the gentleman's club she's performing in are in her. 

A gang of guys get out of a car and shout after the man we saw at the start of the video. Three different shots are shown at this point:

  1. The man getting beaten up
  2. The performer's energetic stage movements juxtaposing the violence of this beating
  3. A customer is getting handsy with a girl who works at the club and drags her face back to his when she tries to get away.
The third shot is in there to add to the narrative of the video. It's there to imply to the viewer that the man was extremely sexually assertive and perhaps even abusive to the performer, which is why she is dancing whilst he is getting beaten up. It's almost as if she's celebrating the thought of this man in pain.

Flashbacks to the performer's relationship with the man are then shown, and it seems to confirm some sort of abusive relationship, with the man pacing, shouting at the performer, who is sitting down. The performer is shown with a high-angle shot, which are used in film to make a character look vulnerable to the audience. As the video progresses and more shots of the man shouting at the performer (shown with a slight low-angle shot, used in film to make someone look powerful) are included, we get a lovely juxtaposition between the emotional abuse the man is inflicting on the performer and the physical violence that is being inflicted upon him. 

As the flashback to the argument that the performer and the man are having gets more intense, the low and high angled shots become more and more noticeable to the viewer.

The vulnerability implied in these shots become visually explicit as the performer begins to strip off on stage. It's vital to point out that this is not in an erotic way, but rather in an attempt to distance herself from masculinity, from the traits that she associates with the person that abused her and strip down to her emotional core for the entertainment of the audience and also for the good of herself.

And sure enough, we get to see the performer's emotional core. The director villianises the man through use of low angled shots, harsh lighting and the actor's condescending facial expression.

The way the performer flings herself around on stage, with expression on her face that epitomised pain after the man grabs hold of her, as well as the tearful reaction she gave on what we assume to be her recounting her experience to the gangster, implies that she was raped by this man. The man falls as the performer does at the end of the video, suggesting that in a way, justice is served. But the lasting image of the performer crying off stage and the silence that fills her world once the performance ends tells us that there's no way that anyone can truly give her justice, or make things right once more, after being abused so terribly by the man she once loved.

Potentially way off with that, but that's what I got from the video on my second viewing. Anyone else got anything to add or analysed it differently? I'd love to hear them.

Great stuff. Vincent Haycock directed it, go and flood him with lots of lovely messages!

Lauren xxx

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